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Nonprofit Group Says NFL’s Rooney Rule Is Racist

football on field

Days before Super Bowl LVIII, a nonprofit group filed a federal civil rights complaint against the NFL for its “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview at least two external candidates from underrepresented minorities for head coaching vacancies.

America First Legal (AFL) claimed in a letter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the Rooney Rule violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and allows the league to engage in race and sex discrimination.

The conservative group also sent a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell demanding that appropriate measures be taken to “stop this cynical assault on equality.”

“If the National Football League truly wants to end discrimination in the employment process, then the NFL should stop discriminating in the employment process, follow the meritocratic system it displays on the field, and eliminate the Rooney Rule,“ Ian Prior, AFL’s senior advisor, said in a statement.

SHRM Online has collected additional news on this topic.

NFL Spokesperson Responds to Complaint

An NFL spokesperson told The Hill that the league is proud of its work to promote equal employment opportunities for women and people of color, resulting in diversity throughout the NFL.

“As Commissioner Goodell said just this week, diversity makes us better,” the spokesperson said. “We look forward to responding to this complaint and demonstrating that our policies and programs are fully consistent with the law and with fundamental notions of fairness.”

(The Hill)

Complaint Comes Amid IE&D Backlash

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned affirmative action in higher education, many activists and public officials have taken legal action to disrupt corporate inclusion, equity and diversity (IE&D) efforts. As a result, companies have been evaluating their IE&D programs, and many are asking their lawyers if and how much they should modify their methods.

(SHRM Online)

Rule Expanded to Include Women

In 2022, the NFL updated the Rooney Rule so that women and/or people of color can satisfy the requirement to interview two external candidates from underrepresented minorities for top positions, including head coach. Teams are not required to interview any women, but women are now included in the fulfillment criteria along with racial and ethnic minorities.


Is the Rooney Rule Working?

Nzinga Shaw, a former HR executive for the NFL and a member of the league’s diversity council, told SHRM Online in 2022 that the Rooney Rule was “ineffective,” adding that “it has become a policy that is not being accomplished in earnest and is oftentimes circumvented without any accountability to the dissidents.”

(SHRM Online)

NFL Commissioner Says Rooney Rule ‘Still Necessary’

In a news conference prior to the Super Bowl, Goodell said that the Rooney Rule will remain “for the foreseeable future,” despite receiving complaints from some coaches with minority backgrounds.

“Not having it be necessary would be a wonderful world for us,” Goodell said. “I personally believe it’s still necessary.”

(The Denver Post)


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